Review Of American Sniper

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 1 month ago

I went to see American Sniper this weekend.  But first, this from Deadline Hollywood:

While the competition did well this weekend against the titan American Sniper, some executives griped that the Eastwood film shaved off dollars off their initial projections.

“It felt like we opened against a Marvel movie,” said one studio executive about Sniper‘s presence. “The people portrayed in American Sniper – these are real-life heroes to people in the same way that Marvel characters are heroes to fanboys. But it’s the Marvel concept for adults.”

[ … ]

Warner Bros. preferred not to comment on the lofty figures, which makes sense because it’s better to get another day under your belt as the weekend progresses and projections become more exact. All over town, executives are gobsmacked by the opening traction for this movie, the highest ever in Eastwood’s career …

In sum, American Sniper is an amazing feat for Warner Bros. On the surface, the film appeared risky with its anti-war message.

Only an idiot would compare this to Marvel.  Enough said about that.  The fact that executives are “gobsmacked” makes perfect sense.  The theater was full when I went, and full for the next showing, and I suspect full for the entire weekend.  Football sucks anyway, so where’s the choice?  Executives are “gobsmacked” because they are disconnected to reality.  They think since they have a certain world view, others must have it as well.  They’re stupid, and if the goal is to make money, I could have told them how to make a whole lot more a long time ago.

As to the last point in the horrible article I cited, there is no way this film can be construed as anti-war.  It isn’t pro-war, and it isn’t anti-war.  It’s a stunning panorama of skill, life and death.  It is as engaging as any film I have ever seen, and after the film you feel as though you know both Chris Kyle and his wife.  It’s a portrait of heroism, love, devotion, a life well-lived, and a death that came too soon.

I do have one nit (and I’m not entirely sure that it’s a nit if I’m wrong).  During an early scene in Fallujah in the 2004 time frame, one of Chris’s colleagues says something about the Marines who are there that sounds strange.  “Six months ago, they were civilian.”  As for my son, by the time he was out of boot camp, took the necessary break, went to School of Infantry (SOI), got out and was assigned to fleet, about six months had elapsed.  Then he had fleet training, the workup to deployment in Iraq being a full year (e.g., squad rushes, time at virtually every military range in America, training and extensive practice time in room clearing, room clearing with night vision gear, designated marksman training [at least for my son], and so on the list goes, including a time at the end with live tissue training).  If the Marines were actually deploying men to Fallujah six months after enlistment, that’s a real problem.  I doubt they were.

Finally, I like Chris Kyle’s weapons kit.  It seems to me that he (and his colleagues) chose right.  A pistol (although I don’t like the choice for pistol), a carbine (5.56), and bolt action rifle with high power glass for long range shooting (I believe he was shooting .338).

I’m probably partial to the exploits of Carlos Hathcock and his ingress, concealment and egress.  But there is no questioning the fact that Chris Kyle is the most prolific sniper in American history.  Reward yourself with a visit to the theater to see this one.

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  1. On January 19, 2015 at 8:43 am, John Reynolds said:

    You need consider the differences in mission assigned to Marines versus a Navy SEAL. The reason Marines are a part of the Navy is because the original mission of Marines is to be first to storm a beachhead. The training required to wade out of the waters onto a hostile beach is different from that required to perform the stealthy and complex missions Navy SEALS are assigned. (Yes, the Marine mission has evolved since the initial days… but not as much as you might think. When you need go headlong into the jaws of a hostile force and have no option for retreat or tactic – then call the Marines.)

  2. On January 19, 2015 at 8:51 am, Herschel Smith said:

    But that has nothing to do with the point I made about what the MC did before deploying the Marines to Fallujah. If they did deploy with six months of training, then they did it differently several years later when they deployed my son. My point has nothing to do with differences between services.

  3. On January 19, 2015 at 9:00 am, John Reynolds said:

    We can disagree. Length of training has more to do with the job one is trained for… and the need to fill mission requirements. Some MOS positions require longer training cycles, some not. It is not unbelievable nor unreasonable for Marines to enter the fight 6-months after enlisting. It depends on what job they are trained for. I took your point as being 6-months as too short a training cycle. For some jobs that is true but not for all.

  4. On January 19, 2015 at 10:03 am, Herschel Smith said:

    I still think we’re commenting on two completely different things. I am saying that the comment that

  5. On January 19, 2015 at 10:52 am, John Reynolds said:

    We are talking about two different things. You appear to assume that all require the same length of training. Consider that the original statement made in the movie was based on knowledge of some Marines being deployed within 6-months of enlisting (yes, it can and does happen). Because others have longer training cycles does not negate the fact. Just as the movie character ascribes limited knowledge to all Marines – so are you.
    Comparing training of a Marine and a SEAL – both Navy, is problematic. As the mission varies, so does the training requirement. One size does not fit all. Your view is no more correct than that which you disagree with.

  6. On January 19, 2015 at 11:02 am, Herschel Smith said:

    My goodness. My goodness. My goodness. Sigh. I am not, and wasn’t, comparing training for SEALs or anyone else to that of Marines. I was comparing the training Marines allegedly went through in 2004 with what my son went through as a Marine in his pre-deployment workup later than that. This all has nothing whatsoever to do with comparing anything or anybody with anything else or anybody else, except Marines with Marines.

    Either (a) the statement made in the movie was factually incorrect, or (b) the Marines made significant changes to pre-deployment workups for Iraq between 2004 and 2006.. I still don’t which one it is. That’s the issue I pointed to. SEALs have nothing to do with this.

    I am making a technical and wonkish point about exactly what the MC did as pre-deployment workups in the mid-decade in which OIF was fought. You wish to discuss something else I think. That ‘something else’ has nothing to do with what I posted.

  7. On January 19, 2015 at 11:16 am, John Reynolds said:

    I will provide you with context. In the Movie the SEAL is making a comparison between SEAL training and Marine training. As is not uncommon, the example is made – based on the minimum training a Marine might receive. I can easily imagine someone making that broad brush claim as in some cases it is likely true.
    You offer a suggestion “deploying men to Fallujah six months after enlistment, that’s a real problem”.
    My point which you seem miss is that all Navy personnel do not receive the same training. Training regimes are continually changing as the Corps is not static. One size does not fit all but you have suggested there is a problem? My goodness. My goodness. My goodness. Sigh.

  8. On January 19, 2015 at 11:25 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Chris Kyle wasn’t there to do room clearing operations. He was there as a sniper (primarily). Again, my point was a comparison between Marines as deployed in 2004 with Marines as deployed in 2007. What my son was put through as a pre-deployment workup I consider to be adequate. So did my son. His fleet time after SOI was approximately one year. If Marines were being deployed without that same workup, it was inadequate. That point has nothing whatsoever to do with SEALs or any training they went through or expectations placed on them.

    I presume the MC concluded the same thing and changed the pre-deployment workups to match the expectations placed on Marines for MOUT in Fallujah. So either (a) the statement made in the movie was factually incorrect, or (b) the MC pre-deployment workups changed mid-decade. I don’t know which one it is.

    Your comments don’t add anything to the discussion to answer that question. You wish to conflate what I said into something I didn’t say. In the future please make your comments related to what I actually said, not what you wish I said or some debate you wish to have.

  9. On January 22, 2015 at 10:00 am, Josh said:

    This is what it looks like when someone doesn’t read what was posted, and then proceeds to conjure a debate with himself, but drag the author in to project on.

  10. On January 19, 2015 at 9:15 am, Sean said:

    I can’t talk about the Middle East, but I can talk about Viet-Nam. I enlisted in Aug. 1969. I was in combat in Feb. 1970. And I was not well trained. Army.

  11. On January 19, 2015 at 11:43 am, St Bernard said:

    Went into the ‘Corps 1 June, 1967 was in ‘Nam for Thanksgiving 1967.

  12. On January 19, 2015 at 9:51 am, Centurion007 said:

    There is a huge difference in the terrain where Hathcock operated and where Kyle worked. Kyle had ideal sniper country, and in the urban areas, fields of fire were target rich. And often the ranges were relatively short. In Vietnam, where we worked, you had to contend with an enemy who used cover and concealment, were not channeled into kill zones by city streets, and we death with rice paddies, heavily vegetated villages, jungles and mountains. As we say, everything depends on the terrain and situation. Comparing the feats of Hatchcock and Chuck Mawhinney with any sniper in Iraq is really not a good comparison. I’ve read Kyle’s book, and plan to see the movie soon. Hope the movie actually follows the book!

  13. On January 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm, Sean said:

    So does the movie cover Kyle’s allegations of executing looters during Katrina or the 2 car jackers in Texas he claimed to have killed when they tried to steal his truck? Haven’t seen it…just wonder how detailed the movie was about his entire life or just his military career.

  14. On January 22, 2015 at 10:02 am, Josh said:

    I plan on seeing (and hopefully enjoying) the movie, but yeah, Kyle seemed to have some weird social issues. I think he even claimed he trounced Jessie Ventura in a bar fight or some such thing.

  15. On January 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm, Comrade X said:

    I think Kyle’s caliber of choice for his long range shooting was a 300 win mag.

  16. On January 19, 2015 at 2:26 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    If true that’s interesting, but that assessment would disagree with this article:

    Not to say that you’re wrong.

  17. On January 21, 2015 at 2:01 pm, Ned Weatherby said:

    It’s been a while since I read the book. But if I recall correctly, his primary rifle was a .300 Win Mag. Can’t remember if there was a .338 Lapua or not. I lent the book out, and don’t have it back yet. When I get it back, I’ll confirm.

  18. On January 19, 2015 at 9:32 pm, DirtyMick said:


    I personally hated the movie. Before I get into that, I’ll bring up your 6 months comment. That does happen. I joined the Army 25 January 2005, did Infantry OSUT, went to airborne school may/june, took leave, reported to Campbell in July, and was in Iraq by the end of August. I was straight OJT the whole time. Luckily the majority of my unit did do the year long train up and I had very good NCOs and senior enlisted guys to bring me up to speed. But implying whole Marine units are boots/cherries off the street is inaccurate. All that comment did was try to beef up SEALs as the badasses and make regular Army/Marine Corps as joe shit the ragman incompetents Now on to the movie…
    I hated it. I felt it was wildly inaccurate. He calls his wife on a SAT phone during a combat patrol. They post up in a hide, turn the lights on, break bread with the locals, and nobody pulls security. They insert in the middle of the day in an open area to kill the sniper (HEY EVERYBODY LOOK WHERE WE ARE AT!). I also had issues with the timeline like I want to say him in Fallujah was circa 2004 and they have an MRAP rolling slack. I didn’t seen an MRAP until August 2006 and those went to Route Clearance and EOD. Some Humvees are soft skins and some are up armors. The list goes on and on.
    The parts I did like were portraying the Al Qaeda Iraq (AQI) as blood thirsty savages was on point. I also liked the scenes where he’s home and dealing with issues like continuously talking shop with his wife or getting a little jumpy when a van is behind him while he’s driving. All that stuff was very good.
    But if movies like Fury (fire commands, combined arms stuff, how the germans emplace their machine gun teams), Generation Kill the TV Series (which was phenomenal), Band of Brothers, and even Lone Survivor to an extent (They did a peel, and watch their safe to semi manipulation) can be accurate so can this movie.
    I’m upset because I feel this movie is right up their with hurt locker in terms of being inaccurate, and unfortunately this movie will define our generation like Platoon did for my dad’s.

  19. On January 22, 2015 at 10:05 am, Josh said:

    Generation Kill was such a great mini-series. I’m currently re-watching it with Herschel. I think we’re halfway through?

    And Fury. Wow, what an outstanding movie!

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This article is filed under the category(s) War Movies and was published January 18th, 2015 by Herschel Smith.

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